The shooting happened in front of this house, which was later bombarded by stun grenades and a SWAT team.
  • ANNA MINARD
  • The shooting happened in front of this house, which was later bombarded by stun grenades and a SWAT team.
Last night, a group of neighbors gathered in a home on their quiet street in Columbia City to talk about the police shooting that took place on the street last Friday. They were joined by representatives of the Seattle and Bellevue police departments, who were there to answer questions about the incident. But the neighborhood will be waiting a long, long time for some of their answers.

"I'm coming to you tonight," said SPD's South Precinct Captain Steven Paulsen, "because I felt bad for this neighborhood." Neighbors awoke at dawn on Friday to the sounds of gunshots and stun grenades, as a Bellevue SWAT team serving a warrant ended up fatally shooting a suspect in his car. Due to what Paulsen called "internal protocol issues between our jurisdictions," neighbors were trapped in their homes for hours after the two police agencies had secured the scene. People looked out their windows to see a neighbor's relative bleeding to death in the street and SWAT officers running through their usually quiet yards full of tricycles and daffodils. Residents missed work because they couldn't leave their homes, and Paulsen admitted to "terrible communication" by agencies that were "paralyzed" by decisions about who had jurisdiction, which somehow left out simple things like "What are the neighbors allowed to do?" and "Have we gone house to house?"

But aside from a police action by an outside police department that traumatized residents (some of whom now report having trouble sleeping), questions remain about the use of force itself—questions the officers couldn't address at all now that an investigation is ongoing. The police say officers feared being run down by the man in the car and opened fire. Neighbors took notes and pictures, and their tight-knit block now spends time trying to figure out for themselves which second car was supposedly hit when the suspect drove forward, how his car could've rolled backward again into the first car it hit, how he was able to get in his car in the first place, how many shots were fired—John Russell, a neighbor, tells me he counted 23 casings on the ground and on the car, but neither SPD nor BPD will confirm that detail.

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The full story is "all gonna come out once the dust settles," Major Michael Johnson from the Bellevue Police Department told the room. But that was less than comforting—an inquest will take months, and residents want answers now.

Were the officers really endangered? Why did they fire so many shots? And also: How will this group of neighbors move on from this? Their neighbor lost a family member, and the community is shaken. "We could've done better... as far as how we took care of you," said SPD's Captain Paulsen, and whether SPD or BPD can repair that going forward remains to be seen.

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